Leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Awami Muslim League (AML) shared a stage Sunday night at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, where a large number supporters turned up on the call of Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid for an "Azadi jalsa".
PTI chief Imran Khan and AML head Sheikh Rashid could be seen on the stage along with other leaders, while the ground was filled to the capacity despite a downpour that lashed the city since the evening.
Khan, addressing the crowd at Liaquat Bagh after six years, praised Sheikh Rashid for "waging a jihad against corruption and political mafia for the last nine years."
"For three years, Nawaz Sharif has been controlling all the institutions; this was the first time, that he wasn't able to control the joint investigation team or the Supreme Court — that is why he [Nawaz] is calling it [his disqualification] a conspiracy," thundered Khan. "This is not a conspiracy, this is naya Pakistan."
Throwing his support behind the judiciary, Khan said that this "is the era of social media", and women and the youth are more vigilant than before. "The nation will stand by the Supreme Court if needed."
He alleged that only two types of people were supporting Sharif; those whose interests were associated with him and those who were misled by him.
"Nawaz Sharif was expelled after a due judicial process, yet he says that the honour of [people's] vote is at stake," said Khan.
The PTI chief criticised the proposal to eliminate Articles 62 and 63 from the Constitution, warning of massive agitation in Islamabad if a "conspiracy" was hatched against the Constitution.
Calling the GT Road rally a "drama", Khan said that it was undertaken to pressurise the Supreme Court and the National Accountability Bureau.
Khan proposed a four-point agenda to establish a new Pakistan. "Jihad against poverty, merit, accountability, and environment-friendly measures will provide the basis for a new Pakistan," he said as he concluded his speech.
AML chief Sheikh Rashid in his address said that his party would never bow down before the atrocities of any thief, "including Nawaz Sharif".
He said that he will remain thankful to Imran Khan and his party until his death for nominating him for prime minister.
"They [the PML-N] had planned to kill me and you," he claimed while addressing Khan, adding that the masterminds behind the murder plot had been arrested.
Criticising the economic policies of the former prime minister, Rashid held the PML-N regime responsible for bringing the per capita foreign loan to Rs130,000 from Rs35,000.
Earlier at the rally, PTI vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi started his speech by asking, "What am I guilty of?", taking a jibe at former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. In nearly all of Sharif's speeches that he delivered on his way to Lahore from Islamabad, he demanded to know the reason for his disqualification. "Someone tell me, why was I deposed?" he had asked, repeating the question frequently during his four-day GT Road rally last week.
Answering the question, Qureshi said that Nawaz was disqualified because he fooled and mislead the nation, and plundered the national exchequer.
"Nawaz Sharif talks about honouring the mandate; [he should know that] transparent elections guarantee the honour of the mandate," said Qureshi. He asked the crowd to join him in creating a new Pakistan under the leadership of PTI chief Imran Khan.
PTI leader Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar praised the Supreme Court and the Pakistan Army, calling the two institutions credible. "Rest [of the institutions] have been compromised because their heads are appointed by the government," he said.
Ahead of the gathering, the PTI started distributing pamphlets, titled "We will tell you why you were disqualified", via a private helicopter at Liaquat Bagh and nearby areas.
Earlier, Zahid Kazmi, PTI district president, had claimed that Rawalpindi was the PTI’s fort "which will be proved on August 13." He explained that Imran Khan had not announced his plan for coming to Rawalpindi to celebrate Independence Day which is why a separate rally was being planned.
AML President Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had expressed hope for the success of his public meeting, saying that the basic aim of the public meeting was to highlight the corruption of the ruling elites. “Panama Papers leaks exposed the ruling elites and time has come to get the answer from them about the illegal money transferred abroad,” he had said.
Rashid accuses govt of having 'double standards'
A day earlier, Sheikh Rashid had claimed that the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) tried to stop his party workers from installing a sound system at the venue.
He told Dawn that the PML-N provincial government had double standards as it allowed Nawaz Sharif to interrupt the movement of citizens on Murree Road on Aug 9 and was now trying to stop the public meeting of Imran Khan.
“On Saturday morning, we were installing a sound system at Liaquat Bagh when PHA officials reached there and tried to stop us. But due to the resistance of the AML workers, the officials went back.”
He said arrangements had been completed to welcome Imran Khan at the public gathering on Sunday night, adding that the district administration was informed to make arrangements for Khan's security.
The two parties had installed banners and posters on Murree Road for the public meeting, but the local administration had removed them within an hour saying that the organisers had not obtained any permission.
“Our banners were removed from Murree Road soon after they were installed. However, PML-N’s banners are still installed on the pillars of the metro bus elevated road,” PTI's district president had alleged, saying that the PTI had submitted an application to the district administration about the rally but the party local leaders were informed that it had been forwarded to the home department and intelligence agencies for a clearance.